Monday, August 14, 2017

Jack-The True story of Jack & the Beanstalk

     My reading is slowing down as I get closer to school starting!!! AH! On a good note, I've been writing more and only have a few letters in my reply pile. My goal is to completely finish my reply pile before school. (And have my house clean, school work prepared, kids ready for school, on and on and on) 

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk  
      Last year, there was a book called Rump on the Massachusetts Childrens Book Awards list. I was really interested in it; Tim, not so much. Well, it turns out that the author, Liesl Shurtliff has written a similar book, but about Jack & the Beanstalk. 

Here is David's review:
Jack, The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk” is a great story. It's an adventurous tale about Jack and his family. He has a mother, a father and a little sister, Anabella. One day giants come down from the sky and steal their village. They steal their houses, a bakery, farms, food and even people. The giants stole all of these things because there was a famine in their land so they needed food. They stole the people to work with the smaller food and animals. Jack's Papa and their cow, Milky White, were stolen by the giants and that's where the adventure begins.
One character I liked was Sir Blueberys. He was a knight who rode an old donkey. He was always giving people advice on how to defeat the giants but he wasn't a person who could save the village, so he wasn't really a good knight.
I would give this book 4.5/5 because although this was a long book, it was a fun one. I read this book out loud with my mom. Some of the things we liked were: the characters, the plot and the different creatures in the story, like pixies and animals.

     I also enjoyed this book. It had a lot of nice lessons for kids. Jack grows up knowing that he has been names after his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, slayer of giants. He expects to grow up "great," but often feels like maybe he doesn't have it in him to live up to (his own ) expectations. It has some good messages about family and not placing too much importance in "stuff" and riches. 
       The MCBA site lists this as an early 4th grade reading level. David struggled a bit through this one. I don't know if it was that we were reading aloud or if it was just long for him. (He also has some speech issues, which adds a level of complication.)  If you've read this with your kids, I'm curious to hear your thoughts. He really enjoyed the story, but I think I may have liked it more. Maybe he needs more exposure to the original Jack & the Beanstalk story? My older son also came in a few nights to read with us because he could tell it was a fun story. I think I might still try to read Rump.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Brilliant Idea (and How it Caused my Downfall)

My Brilliant Idea (And How It Caused My Downfall) 

     This is another book that has been on my TBR shelf for too long. I'm reading it for my Mount TBR challenge as well as my Keyword Reading Challenge (My).  I actually felt badly when I picked it up to read because I saw that Goodreads had sent it to me as an advanced reader copy, but the book was published June 2016. So, I apologize for the delay.    This book is about a boy named Jack Dawson, nicknamed Jackdaw, who comes up with an idea to create an app that would prevent you from getting in trouble for daydreaming at school. The only problem is that he doesn't know how to program an app, and the only person who knows at his school is a strange girl named Elsie. In order to get what he wants, Jackdaw makes a series of deals and comes up with schemes to get each deal to work. Unfortunately, many of his plans are hindered by outside forces and don't go exactly how he planned. 
      I gave this book 3/5 stars on Goodreads. This book is geared towards teens but I could tell right away that it was not written by an American author, so I'm not sure if teens here would immediately connect with the book. I think if my son read this book, he wouldn't know what some of the slang meant.  Also, one of the ideas that Jack has is to trick a boy into getting naked in front of a girl, which isn't the most edifying thing for me to pass on to my kids. It fits in with Elsie's weirdness, but wasn't an idea I liked in a book younger kids might be reading. There were some sections that were pretty humorous. As a person who works with teens, I liked Jackdaw's convictions that his "good ideas" are brilliant and his sense of humor.

Happy anniversary

       I am not a girl who "needs" flowers, but every once in a while, it's nice to receive them. Today is my 19th wedding anniversary and I wanted to show off the beautiful flowers my husband sent me.
Image may contain: flower and natureVery sweet! Marriage can be a lot of work sometimes. These were a really nice surprise after taking the boys out to swim at a local river. Thanks, Matt!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mount TBR update

    I recently took a screen free week and got some reading done too! I've been chipping away at my to be read pile for the Mount TBR challenge. My original goal was 24 books. I'm at 15. So, I'm well on my way. I am planning on telling you about 2 books- The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver H.C. Chester and  Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke.
The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House, #1)

      This book tells about the lives of 4 orphans growing up in Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks. They are the only children as part of his show. Pippa is sort of a mind reader, but she sometimes can only tell what is in your pockets. Thomas can squeeze into small spaces. Sam is a strong man and Max is a knife thrower. Dumfrey's museum is struggling so he brings in a new exhibit- an Amazonian shrunken head. Unfortunately, at the first show that exhibits the head, a woman in the audience dies. A reporter in the audience writes an article and suggests that the shrunken head might carry a curse with it.
        This story was just "ok" to me. (Tim too) We both felt that the story had potential and that the characters were kind of fun, but the amount of deaths in the story seemed extraneous. Don't get me wrong, this is not filled with people killing each other, but we think the story could've been told without some of the deaths.  Neither one of us are interested in reading the rest of the stories in the series.

Inkheart (Inkworld, #1)

     This book has been sitting on my to read shelf forever! I don't even remember where I got it. My guess is that I picked it up somewhere for Tim a few years ago, but wanted to read it first to see if there is anything inappropriate that he shouldn't be reading. (There isn't)
      I don't often say that I love a book, but I might have loved this one- or at the very least, liked it a lot. Who knew I'd spend my summer enjoying middle grade fantasy? I love the premise of this whole book. There is a bookbinder- called Mo by his daughter and nicknamed Silvertongue by some other characters- who has the ability to read characters out of the books that they are written in. Unfortunately, when a character is transported out of their story, someone from Mo's word is transported in. His 12 year old daughter, Meggie, knows nothing about this ability since her father has always told her that he is not good at/doesn't like reading aloud. One night, Meggie is sitting in her room when she hears a noise outside. She looks out her window to see a man, Dustfinger, in their yard. She informs her father and it becomes obvious to Meggie that her dad knows this man.The 2 men talk privately and soon we learn that a man named Capricorn has been seeking Silvertongue and a book that he is in possession of.
     I don't want to give away too much of this book (even though it's from early 2000s so you may have read it!) so I'm not going to write more about the plot. Here's a few things that I loved:
1) The story in general. It's full of love for books and reading. It captures that books can take you to far away places and fill you with wonder, or scare you while you're reading alone in your room. I just felt that everything was really imaginative.
2) The characters- There is one character, Elinor, who I grew to like more within the story. She is Meggie's great aunt. She seems kind of like a bitter, old woman who is obsessed with books. Her books are kept in pristine condition in her massive house full of bookshelves and a special library. (Kind of like how my books are kept in wonderful condition within my messy Elinor sees her books almost like her friends or her children and they are precious to her. Although I am not a person who is easily attached to material things, I get being attached to books.
3) The beginning of each chapter starts with quotations from other great books. I have always loved that. Is it Dean Koontz that does that in most of his books?

Read this book.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Stormy Seas

     I saw this book on NetGalley a while back and decided that it would be good for me to read. I don't know many refugees personally, and I the ones I do know I don't know well enough to ask their stories. With the events of the world and in the US lately, refugees have been on my mind more than they had previously been. I thought this book might open up some conversations with my sons about how their lives are similar/different from the lives of children in different times and places.  In the introduction, the author writes "If you're reading this, you-like me- have probably won the lottery. Not the giant-check, instant-millionaire kind of lottery. The other lottery in-   the really valuable one. That random, lucky break that means you were born-or immigrated to a relatively peaceful and prosperous place in the world. Along with all the other amazing things about you, that makes you pretty extraordinary."  I think that is an important point that many kids might not have thought about much before.
      Stormy Seas tells the story of 5 people who fled their countries on boats. Ruth is 18 when she flees from the Nazis in 1939 with the intention of arriving in Cuba. However, after 6 days in Havana Harbor, their boat is turned away and told to return to Europe. Ruth eventually ends up in England.  Phu leaves his family and travels from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon.  Thirteen year old Jose leaves the Castro regime in Cuba to come to the United States. Najeeba, 11 in 2000, escapes Afghanistan through Pakistan and India before arriving in Australia. Mohamed, a 13 year old orphan,  arrives in Italy after fleeing the Ivory Coast, working in Guinea, Mali, and Algeria, being smuggled into Libya, then crossing the Mediterranean to Malta. 
      I thought this book was good. The art in the book is similar to what you see on the cover. I liked the collage aspect of it and liked that they showed the routes each child has traveled on a map. I asked my youngest son what he thought of the art and he said he thought "it was interesting" and "likes the patterns" in the background of a lot of pages. I liked that they told what happened to each person later in their life as well. The book also includes a brief history of people who had "come by boat" before these 5 as well as after these 5.  The stories of each person were told in an appropriate manner for children. There were also a lot of subject specific vocabulary- like "refugee," "asylum," etc- that are defined for kids who might not have encountered these words in previous reading. 
      I am planning on recommending this book to our middle school librarian and the librarian at my son's school. This book is available from Annick Press.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Last Namsara

    July seems to be my month to get a lot of reading done :) I cannot stop!  I would normally have no problem with this but my mental traveling into different worlds has slowed down my writing so I'd like a little more balance.   I'm looking forward to telling you about this next book, which I just received as a digital copy from NetGalley and Orion Publishing last week. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli will be released in the US on October 3 and in the UK on October 5. It is a YA fantasy.
 The Last Namsara (Iskari, #1)  
     The Last Namsara was great. I devoured it. I usually don't read a ton of fantasy but this one drew me in right from the beginning. It is about a girl named Asha, who is the daughter of the king of Firgaard. When she was a child, Asha told dragons old stories that had been forbidden by her people. One night, this almost cost her her life. The first dragon, Kozu, burned her badly and destroyed her city. Lives were lost and Asha was feared. She was thought to be the Iskari- a death bringer, created by the Old One to establish balance with the Namsara, who carried love and laughter.  In atonement for her deeds, Asha becomes a fierce dragon slayer and is promised in marriage to Jarek, the boy who saved her life and whose parents were killed by Kozu, Jarek is powerful and cruel and he serves as the commandant under Asha's father. When the king offers Asha an opportunity to avoid being married to Jarek, she is happy to oblige; her freedom from marriage in exchange for the head of Kozu. 
       If that story line doesn't sound exciting enough for you, there is way more. Dragons. (Cait, I put that first for you) Forbidden love. People coming together for an uprising against wrongs that have been done to them. Old stories telling the history of Asha's family,   It's all here.  
     I'm excited that this is going to be part of a 3 book series. I will definitely check out the other books!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Space Case

Space Case (Moon Base Alpha #1) 
       After I shared one of David's reading books with you, I decided to take a look at the books Tim is reading. Tim has loved most of the MCBA books he's read and has a goal to read them all this summer. This is his first MCBA book. I decided to check it out too (Thinking that it was one of his assigned summer reading books.. oops)  This book is geared to 6th graders. (
      Space Case is about a 12 year old boy named Dashiell (nicknamed Dash) who is growing up on Moon Base Alpha with his parents and younger sister, Violet. Life on the moon was not always what NASA had advertised. Adjusting to low gravity life, space food, toilets! and being around the same people all the time can be hard. There are not many kids on base, and the ones that are there are not exactly the type of kids that Dash wants to be around all the time. His choices of what to do are somewhat limited since kids are not allowed on the moon's surface and he has to be restricted to base.
       Life gets a lot more complicated when it's discovered that Dr. Holtz, the base's top scientist, has died after making a mistake with his space suit before going out to the moon's surface. There are a few problems with this- 1) Dr. Holtz is super concerned with safety and is particularly cautious about the space suits and 2) Dash had overheard Dr. Holtz speaking with someone about an incredible discovery that would change the course of mankind. Holtz was planning a meeting on base to reveal his discovery just hours after he was found dead. (This conversation that Dash overhears takes place during a very humorous toilet episode.Both Tim and I had a good chuckle with Gibbs' wording.)   While Dash suspects that something might be wrong, most of the other people on the base are hesitant to even address the possibility that foul play might be involved. 
       Lucky for Dash, a rocket is scheduled to arrive from Earth. It is carrying some new residents of the base, some temps who have jobs on the base and extra food/supplies. One of the new residents of MBA is a girl named Kira, who immediately becomes friends with Dash. With her help, Dash is able to examine what really happened to Holtz.
        I liked this book. There were some exciting parts. It was humorous. It did include a few "it sucked" type lines, but realistically, I know that's not the worst my son is going to be hearing from kids his age. It is part of a series and I'm sure that Tim would not hesitate to read the other books in the series. This might be a great book for kids who aren't usually readers.
      Here's what Tim had to say about this book:
      "It was very interesting and it had a lot of diversity between the types of people at the space station. I loved it. I'd honestly recommend it to everyone. It's thrilling."
   His next read was The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. I haven't read this one but he described it to me. It sounded pretty scary for a younger kid. Tim, who is usually creeped out pretty easily, read it while camping. He thought it was exciting and said he wants to try more books like this.
Tim: "The Nest was very creepy and fast paced for sure."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mountaineering Checkpoint #2 (even though I missed #1)

     One of the reading challenges I'm taking part in this year is called Mount TBR- and it is a challenge to reduce your "to be read" pile. In my bedroom,  I have a bookshelf of books I have yet to read. It is accompanied by a neat stack of books next to the shelf that just didn't fit on the bookcase. This is my first time participating in this particular challenge (and the Keyword Reading Challenge too.) My goal for this year is to reach the summit of Mount Blanc, by reading 24 books out of my piles.

1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read).  If you're really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you've read correlates to actual miles up Pike's Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc. And feel free to tell us about any particularly exciting adventures you've had along the way.

    I am currently at 13 books, a little more than halfway up Mount Blanc. I'm happy with this since I'm participating in 3 challenges and not all the books I'm reading are from my to be read pile.

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:

 A. Choose two titles from the books you've read so far that have a common link. You decide what the link is--both have strong female lead characters? Each focuses on a diabolical plot to take over the world? Blue covers? About weddings? Find your link and tell us what it is.

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry, and A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by AlexandraPetri were both humorous books that I won in giveaways from Goodreads.

 B. Tell us about a book on the list that was new to you in some way--new author, about a place you've never been, a genre you don't usually read...etc. 
        One of the books I enjoyed the most was Sparks and Shadows by Kendrick von Schiller. I have never read anything from that author before and I haven't really read too much fantasy. In addition, this was another Goodreads win and the author signed my book and wrote me a really nice note. I'm looking forward to her next book.


Wild in the Hollow

  Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home

This book came highly recommended to me by a friend. I was really excited to read it. Unfortunately, I just didn't connect much. The redemptive theme that God is often found in broken places and the topic of things that are not working right now in American churches were important topics, but I think I was lost in the flowery language and the fact that the author's life is extremely different from my own.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

On Edge- a Journey Through Anxiety review

   Thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review.     As you can guess by the cover of this book, this book deals with living with anxiety. The author, Andrea Petersen, shares her experiences with her lifelong struggle with anxiety and how it has affected her relationships, work, and ability to live life.  "It (anxiety) is a chronic sense of uneasiness about a vague future, a gnawing worry about what may or may not happen."  I appreciated the mix of personal reflections with the scientific research that she presented.  Peterson tells about research regarding heredity and anxiety,  possible links between anxiety and other medical issues, and strategies for dealing with anxiety- both non-drug therapies and medications. Although I really enjoyed the research aspect, I might caution you if you're not interested in reading research or information about neuroscience. 
    I appreciated the author's vulnerability in telling her story. I have often wondered if I would be diagnosed with anxiety if I ever had an evaluation. (The answer is probably yes.) My thoughts are constantly racing, I often obsess about the possibilities in any situation- even though I understand that there is usually only 1 outcome. I have often shared some of the questions that she has- "Is this normal?" "What if I end up like this relative?" "Am I just worrying, or is there something actually wrong?"   If you would like to learn more about anxiety- or work with people who may be dealing with anxiety, I think this is a great read.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Kids summer reading/ The Truth of Me- review

Here's something a little different from me. As part of our summer reading, Tim has read many Massachusetts Children's Book Award books. This year, David is old enough to enjoy them. Tim's summer reading goals are to:
1) Read 2 books from his middle school reading list.
2) Report on both of those books
3) Read all of the MCBA books (There are 25)

David's reading goals are to:
1) Participate in the Barnes & Noble reading program
2) To finish 1 MCBA book and write a report on it.
     He just completed that goal- so his new goal is:
3) Read 10 MCBA books this summer and complete reports on each 

The Truth of Me 
     This is David's first MCBA book. We read it together. I thought it was delightful. This book is about a boy named Robert who is sent to his grandmother's house for the time that his parents are performing in a concert tour.  Robert doesn't mind much since his parents, especially his mom, seem to care more about music than they do about him. In addition to that, his grandmother, Maddy, and her friend, Henry, are welcoming and adventurous. He also gets to bring his dog, Ellie. During his stay with Maddy, Robbie learns some "small truths" about himself, his family and life in general. 
       The characters in this book are really interesting. The author was gentle with dealing with the personality flaws of each character. At first, and maybe it's just because I have often felt guilt about leaving my kids while I'm doing a concert/running an event, I felt very badly for Robert and for his lack of relationship with his mom in particular. As the story progresses and you learn more about his family, things get a little better. 
       This book is geared for about a fourth grade level. David will be entering fourth grade. He really enjoyed the dialogue between Maddy, Henry, and Robbie. He loved Ellie and her role in the story. We chatted about Robert's feelings about his mom and grandma and what "small truths" were. I thought the reading level was appropriate, but there were some music specific vocabulary that kids who are not musicians might not understand. (quartet, allegro, violist, etc.) This is the first book I have read from Patricia MacLachlan and I look forward to reading more.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Birdcage Walk

Birdcage Walk
   I received this ebook from NetGalley. I'm not sure what it was that originally appealed to me about this book- perhaps the relationship between Lizzie and her husband John Diner Tredevant, the social upheaval during the time of the French Revolution, the plans for the terraced buildings on the edge of the gorge? Unfortunately, I wasn't really drawn into the book too much. It was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but I found myself lost a few times. I'm not sure if I was thrown off by something in the writing or if I just became disinterested in some point. If it sounds appealing to you, give it a chance, I just didn't connect. There were a few parts of the story that surprised me (in a good way) and kept me wanting to read the book, but I don't want to give any spoilers. I will say that I really disliked John Diner Tredevant. You know how sometimes you meet someone and they seem "off?" I got that feeling about this character almost immediately. I don't know if I have ever been so subtly bothered by a character. Thanks NetGalley and Atlantic Monthly Press.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Elsie May Has Something to Say

Elsie Mae Has Something to Say 
    I received this book from NetGalley for an honest review.This book will be released in September. Elsie Mae Has Something to Say is about a little girl named Elsie Mae and her family who live in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. After hearing that the swamp may be in danger of being taken over by a shipping company, Elsie Mae decides that she needs to take action and writes the president a letter asking for help. After sending the letter, she goes to spend the summer on Honey Island with her grandparents, uncles and cousin, Henry James. While she is at the island, you learn about her family, the history of the swamp and friendship. Elsie's adventures also include the hunt for some hog bandits in the area.
      This is a nice piece of historical fiction, which has roots based on a true story. Although the book was a little predictable at points, I enjoyed the characters . Elsie Mae was spunky and I think many kids will enjoy getting to know her. Her spunk partnered with Henry's sincerity create a nice partnership. I liked the distinct "Southern" feel I got from this book. This would be a great book for the children's room at school or a library. I will ask my son to read it and tell me what he thought of it. Thanks NetGalley and Jabberwocky!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Life Without Limits

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic 
     Like some of the other reviews I've read, I really wanted to like this book a little more than I did. I have heard about Nick Vujicic and was really wanted to learn about his story and life. He is a man who was born without any limbs. He does have a small left foot and a very tiny right foot. The book tells about his life but is more focused on motivating people and explaining the power of God in his life. I am a Christian, so this message is incredibly important to me as well, but I just expecting something different in this book. This book could be a powerful giver of hope to someone going through trials or people who would like to learn more about faith in God.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel  
     This is one of the NetGalley books I was most looking forward to reading. I think what surprised me most about this book is that I liked, and got attached to, characters that I normally wouldn't have. Samuel Hawley, a bit of a career criminal, has been living his life on the run with his daughter, Loo, for years. Eventually, they settle in Loo's mother's hometown, Olympus, Massachusetts. (Olympus is based on Gloucester, Ma, which is very close to where I live.) This book is a coming of age story that deals with loss, family, regrets of the past and the consequences of your actions. There is a roughness to many of the characters in this book, but also a tenderness between father and daughter that is really evident, despite their weird circumstances. The "twelve" in the title has to do with the explanation of 12 scars on Hawley's body, and where each bullet came from. This is a difficult book for me to explain for some reason. I would recommend it to many of my friends. I liked Tinti's writing style and may look to read more of her books. (This was the first book I've read that she has written.)

Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil

Something Beautiful Happened: How My Search for a Family Hidden From the Nazis Taught My Family About Faith, Grace, and the Power of Kindness  
     I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book tells the story of the author's grandmother, who helped to save a Jewish family from the Nazi's on the island of Erikousa, Greece. After hearing this tale, various times in her life, the author decides to see if she can track down the relatives of the family that were able to escape. As this is happening in the present, other relatives of the author are shot by a white supremacist. The author goes back and forth between the stories of all of the people involved with the book.
Things I disliked about the book:  I found this book a little difficult to read because it jumped around so much from person to person. I love books that are written from different perspectives or where all the characters meet together somewhere later in the book, but I just struggled with this one. It just felt a little disjointed. However, when I was thinking about how I might organize it to be clearer, I didn't really have many good solutions.

 Things I liked about the book:  With that being said, I thought the story itself was important and I enjoyed many of the messages in the book. In so many cases, tragedies are remembered by who committed a crime rather than survivors or people who did the right thing. Also, as a person who is involved with genealogy, I could really appreciate some of the frustrating issues Yvette encountered when trying to research all of these families. (I can't even imagine how devastating searching through Holocaust records are if you have a personal connection with those people and how frustrating it is to know that the people existed but not being able to find anything due to the destruction of records.) The creators of MyHeritage also helped in these searches, which made me appreciate their software and their story a bit more.  I enjoyed "getting to know" the family of the author and her kinship with the relatives of the Jewish family that her family helped protect. It is a good reminder that even if evil always exists, people can bond together in love and do good in the world. 

       Our 8th graders study the Holocaust in their curriculum. I know the teacher would not like how the book jumps around, but I know many of the students might want to read this book as supplemental material. I will recommend it to them. I might also see if our librarian would like to get a copy for our school library.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

None Wounded, None Missing, All Dead- The Story of Elizabeth Bacon Custer

None Wounded, None Missing, All Dead: The Story of Elizabeth Bacon Custer 
      I received this book from GoodReads in exchange for an honest review.  (Thank you!) It's not often that I really struggle to get through a book, but this one was one of those times. This book is about the life of Elizabeth Bacon Custer and her marriage to General George Custer. It is a short read and the author's research is well-documented. (In fact, about 1/3 of the book is a the citations of the research, which is okay with me since I would totally read that closely if I wanted to do more investigating.)   There are 10 chapters in this book and I thought I would read a chapter a day. I found that I struggled with that. I was bothered that I couldn't figure out why this book was so hard for me. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1) I was not as interested in the subject as I thought I might be. I did learn a few things from this book and I was able to see the life of George Custer from some perspectives that I hadn't known about before, but there was nothing that made me curious as to what would come next for the couple.

2) (Hold on to your hats for this one) The book often quotes letters and journals, but I think that was distracting to me.  It would be talking specifically about Elizabeth and then mention what was going on with her husband and then include a letter about her husband or relating to another thing and I just felt that the transitions were strange? Maybe the writing style of the author just doesn't appeal to me.  There was also a lot about 2 other men, who were important in the lives of the Custers but I either wanted them mentioned in the book, or wanted more information about their background too.

3) George took such and such position- Elizabeth went with him. Then George had to move here. Elizabeth didn't. Repeat. A lot.

4) I think the real reason I didn't enjoy the book is that I didn't get emotionally attached to either Custer. I know it is not the authors intention in a non-fiction work to convince a reader to like or dislike a main character and it is their intention to portray them as they actually were, but sometimes I felt that the author was a bit biased. (Sometimes I felt he liked the Custers and other times, not so much.) 

      If anything related to this book is interesting to you- life on the plains, military history, Native American relations in the West, etc- perhaps this book might be a good read, but I found it dry.

 Reading Challenges Stats:
Goodreads Challenge:  15/75 (2 behind schedule)
Monthly Keyword Challenge: 5/12 (on track)
Mount TBR 11/24- (Ahead of schedule)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Inkblots review

       Have you ever heard of the Rorschach test? You know, the test that uses what people see in inkblots to help a psychologist identify aspects of your personality or how you function emotionally? Between seeing (Non-Rorschach) inkblots used in advertising, movies, Internet quizzes, etc. I'm sure you have heard of this test. However, do you know anything about the test or the man who created it? I didn't. Although I am not super into psychology, I thought I might learn something from this book so I applied to read from NetGalley it in exchange for a fair review. (Thanks Crown, Mr. Searls and NetGalley!)
      The first part of this book is a biography of Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychoanalyst responsible for creating this test.  I wondered why I hadn't really heard much about his life before reading this book. (The author states that his family were very private after Rorschach's death and that some of his things were lost in a fire after they were donated.) It was interesting for me to read about some of the beliefs of the times and places where he lived and worked. Rorschach died pretty young, at the age of 37. It would've been interesting to see what he would've accomplished had he lived longer.
       The second part of the book was basically a cultural history of the test- the strengths and weaknesses of the test, how it is scored, who it was used by and when, etc. To be honest, there were times that I found myself skimming some of these sections because psychology is not the most riveting subject to me, but there were definitely things I didn't know. I hadn't really considered that the whole aspect of "personality" is still a relatively new thought. While interpreting these tests, people used to think that some results were just dependent on how you were wired; now personality is a factor. Also, the interpretation of the test is skewed a bit depending on culture. Some of the scoring of the test has to do with colors- and some cultures associate colors to other objects or representations. I also didn't know how this test was used by the Nazis or in military screenings. It was an interesting read overall.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mount TBR- book 10 The Letterbox by Layton Green

   The Letterbox 
     I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway.  Layton Green also signed it and wrote me a note. Thanks! This book is about a box that is found buried in the English moors.  It is procured by a man in New Orleans who then hires a team of people to go searching for answers regarding its origin and purpose. The team visits ancient sites across Europe in their quest to find "the pathway to God." I always looked forward to reading the book and seeing what was next but there were a few parts of the book that I found a little predictable. With that being said, the book kept me guessing at other points and still left me with some questions at the end of the story. There was also a theme of religion running through the book. The 4 person team looking for answers were all at different points in their faith (or lack thereof) and I enjoyed thinking about some of the questions that some of the characters were concerned with or motivated by.  I would recommend it to friends who I know enjoy this type of book. I would also be interested in reading more from Layton Green.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ancestry DNA results

  Back in this post, I told you that I was taking an DNA test. I was so excited to get my results back in 6-8 weeks. Well, I finally got them. Get ready for some bumps in the road.

1) I am a very time oriented person. The kit directions state that you will get results in 6-8 weeks. (There is a disclaimer that it might take longer if there is a high volume of tests at that time.) After 6 weeks, I logged on to my account and checked the status. The test had been received by Ancestry on 1/24. Ok... that's not too much more time, no biggie. However, after 8 weeks, I still hadn't heard anything so I called their help line. I had noticed that they had marked it received, but there was no record that it was being processed. When I called, the woman at explained that after they receive it, they send it to the lab for processing, Apparently none of the testing process had even started. Grr. Luckily, I'm a patient person (most times) and I realize that they had a HUGE push for advertising these kits around Christmas. I get it, no reason to ruin this poor woman's day. On 4/3, they started processing my test and I got my results mid-week this week.

2) I thought I'd get something like 80% Ireland, 20% French Canadian.  From my Ethnicity Estimate, I'm 72% from Great Britain, 25% Irish, 2% Iberian Peninsula and 1% West Europe. Great Britain surprised me. Then I realized it said "Thousands of years ago."  Ok, less shocking I get.

3) I belonged to 2 possible genetic communities- Settlers of New England and French Settlers along the St. Lawrence. Both of those seem likely too.

4) DNA Circles- I was excited by this. I was hoping to find lots of close matches... ANY close matches. I do not belong to any DNA circles. This was disheartening. In my head I guess I was hoping to find some "distant" (but really- not distant, close enough that I could figure out a connection) relatives. There was 1 2nd cousin, my dad's cousin Elizabeth. I was hoping for 3rd cousins or closer. I have found people that might be a 3rd cousin but they don't have family trees submitted. I thought that maybe I could find people who were connected by my 3 mystery relatives that I've been struggling with. Nope.

5) What does THAT mean?! A few months ago, I thought I had solved some big mystery. Now that I have my test, I looked forward to confirming people I should've been related to. There was no DNA match. I guess this can happen with distant relatives, but I'm also wondering if I have something wrong with my research.People who have not taken the test will also come up as a "no match."  

       It was interesting to read the results and maybe somewhere down the road they will help connect with people,  but I was hoping for something more. Maybe I should force all of my relatives to do the test too. lol. Kidding.. sort of. I think I need to spend a few days parked at the Ma Archives to try to dig deeper.

Dear Heart by Judith Pinkerton Josephson

Dear Heart: The Courting Letters     
      This is another one of my books from NetGalley. I was really excited to hear about NetGalley and really excited that they have approved me to read so many books. I think I've only officially been turned down for 1. (Thanks Penguin UK... boo.)
    Anyway, this book is a love story; two actually. One story line follows a woman named Lisa who finds a box labeled "Courting letters," while she is cleaning out her recently deceased father's house. If you know me at all, I'm immediately interested in the story. The letters are the second story line. The letters are written between a woman named Gertrude and a man named Fred. They meet in Ipswich England in 1907 and soon begin courting. The letters are exchanged after Fred and his family move to the United States.
      This is a sweet story based on the courtship of a real couple. . To be honest, I'm not usually a huge romance fan but I do appreciate the written word and comparing the past to the present. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it was a little lighter than the materials I usually read.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Intentions... and some good books.

Well, I thought I would be writing a lot this weekend. I have been able to read a lot lately. Here are my latest 3 books.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir 
I really enjoyed this book.  Set at the beginning of World War II, it follows the story of a village whose choir needs to dismantle because the men have gone to war. One of the women in town, Primrose Trent, decides that the choir can continue, just including the women. This is a bit of a new concept, but the women agree. This book follows the individual lives of most of the women in the choir. Being a person who often expressed myself through writing with my penpals or with my music, this book really appealed to me. 

Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland  
  I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway. (Thank you) I am reading this as part of my Monthly Keyword Challenge and Mount TBR Challenge. The keyword for April was his. (From, Trigger, Crown, Tale, Mist and His. Can you believe I only had 1 book with ANY of those words?)  Though I do not have much personal experience with the state of Florida- and therefore, do not know it's "weirdness quota," this book made me laugh quite a bit. If you like Dave Barry, you will probably enjoy this book.The chapters were `the introduction, a brief history of Florida, The Skunk Ape, Weeki Wachee and Spongeorama, Cassadaga, The Villages, Gatorland, Lock & Load Miami, LIV and Key West- most of which I had not heard much about before. Fun read. I will be passing this on to a friend of mine. 

The List 
 This is another book I read through NetGalley.  (I would also like to thank Brianna and Jabberwocky Publishing because when I first my digital copy, my Nook would not open it. Brianna contacted Jabberwocky and they fixed the issue. Thanks. It's a book I was really looking forward to it.)
        The concept of this book really interested me. After global warming has created a flood that has wiped out much of civilization John Noa helped founded the city of Ark. (I know, Noah's Ark.. that's the one thing that kind of annoyed me about the book.) There are 3 groups of people who live in or around Ark- the citizens of Ark, the Desecrators  who live in the forest and the Wordless, who have lost the power to communicate through spoken or written language. Fearing that words help to incite people, Noa has limited language to a list of 500 words- with some specialty words thrown in for specific occupations.  A teenager named Letta becomes the official wordsmith of Ark when her master, Benjamin,  is thought to be dead.
      After meeting some Desecrators, mostly artists, musicians, scientists (All creative types), Letta learns of a plot that Noa has for the citizens of Ark. She has to decide her between her loyalty to Noa or the possibility of living without language.  Great book. Interesting. I loved being able to relate the emotions that music brings up to as well.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Still alive

    Life has been going by quickly lately. I have a lot of reviews of books that I'd like to post and some personal posts I'd be tempted to put up too. For now, I just wanted to say hello. I have a little free time over the next few weeks so maybe I will try to add a few posts to reconnect. Hope your spring is going well so far!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by Alexandra Petri

A Field Guide to Awkward Silences   

      Although I am not most original person in the world, I really appreciate how odd and quirky some people are. Maybe this is one of the reasons I became a middle school teacher? I can handle and appreciate awkward sometimes; most times in fact.  This book made me laugh a lot. This is a collection of essays written by Alexandra Petri- whom I think I would have a lot of laughs with. (Provably with me smiling and laughing while not being brave enough to go along with her weirdness- or vice versa.)
       Occasionally, when someone finds out that I penpal, they will say something like, "Oh, you penpal? Like in writing letters with paper and stuff? That's weird cool." Then they run. Ha ha. No, they just smile and look at me strangely. I think Petri has gotten that look many times too. The book tells many awkward moments or times that she has just realized that things were different for her than for some other people. I enjoyed reading her adventures. (Timmy REALLY enjoyed some of her puns.)
   I would recommend this to anyone who might want a laugh. Definitely some great nerd material in there too- Jeopardy, Star Wars, puns, etc. 
     This book was also great for my reading challenges- It was in my to be read pile and the Monthly Keyword for March (Sillence).

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Old Fox Deceiv'd by Martha Grimes

The Old Fox Deceiv'd (Richard Jury, #2) 
   Well, I have found the first book of the year that I didn't like.  Why didn't I like it? Here are a few reasons:
1) The murder in the book happens in the first chapter. I found that I still didn't care who the murderer was by about 200 pages in. I think I need some more of an emotional investment in the victim.
2) I wasn't too invested in any of the characters. 
3) Maybe I'm just not up to date with my British names/vocabulary? 
    There was just something about this book I could not get into. Originally, I wondered if it might have been because the book was the 2nd book in a series, but the book didn't seem to reference too much about any previous cases.
     This book also fulfilled another book for the February Keyword Reading Challenge (Deception). Up Next: A Field Guide to Awkward Silences (Silence) by Alexandra Petri

Reading Challenges:
Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge: 2/12
Goodreads Challenge-11 /50
Mount TBR- 7/24

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Netgalley Review Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal'd by Mary Losure

Product Details  

    Mary Losure writes non-fiction for children. When I saw this book on NetGalley, I thought that it might be something that Timmy might enjoy too. I was happy when I was chosen to review it. (I might try to get Timothy to review it as well so they can get an idea of what the "target audience" thinks.) 
      Other than Newtonian physics, I didn't know too much about Isaac Newton. This book talks about some of his laws of physics, but mostly discusses his role as an alchemist. There are a few things that I really enjoyed about the book. The first was that it gives a lot of information about what Isaac was like as a person. As a music teacher, there are many times that I notice that my students have an idea about who famous composers are, or what they did, but they do not really have any idea how these people fit into "the big picture" historically. These composers just seem like facts in a book rather than people. It was nice to for me to hear about Isaac's quirks and personality traits, as well information about his family and living conditions. Ms. Losure also explains some of the concepts that were known/unknown in the time period that Newton was living in (Ex. how a prism works- what Newton discovered vs. what was thought at the time or how planets moved through space)
     Another thing I enjoyed was that it was a quick, easy, entertaining read. I wondered if Tim would understand some of the more technical information, like some of the symbols used in Alchemy, but there were definitely science-related things that he will find very interesting, like the information on simple machines. Towards the end of the book, the author tells how some of the discoveries made by Newton have been used in other scientific successes (like sending a rocket into space).  Ms. Losure also wrote a few blurbs that kind of challenged kids to come up with their own discoveries and inquiries.  I also enjoyed her mention of some of the interesting resources she used and the supplemental material at the end of the book. 
     I would recommend this to children who like biographies and science. I will ask Tim to give his opinion here on the blog when he is finished with the book. Thanks to Candlewick Press for the digital copy.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Secrets of Nanreath Hall

     Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff follows the story of the Trenowyth family, through 2 generations. I tend to really enjoy stories that are told from different perspectives and then connect in the middle somewhere. This book was a little different because it simultaneously told the stories of Kitty Trenowyth and her daughter, Anna Trenowyth. The fact that the story shared a setting during 2 different time periods was a little different than some other novels I've read.
     Kitty's story is set in pre-WWI England. Lady Katherine Trenoqyth is the daughter of an aristocratic family and, as such, has set expectations for her life. When she meets painter, Simon Halliday, she has decisions to make about what type of life she really wants to have and what consequences those choices might have.
       Anna Trenowyth's story occurs during WWII. She serves as a nurse for the Red Cross and is unexpectedly is assigned to service at Nanreath Hall, her dead mother's childhood home. Raised by family friends, Anna's new assignment will give her an opportunity to learn about her mom and the relatives she had never met. 
    Overall, this book kept me interested in each character and curious to what would happen next. I looked forward to reading it each night and would be interested in reading another book by this author. 
Secrets of Nanreath Hall
Goodreads Challenge- 9/50
Mount TBR- 6/24

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ensnared by Rita Stradling

   The only positive thing about being stuck at home with the flu has been the ability to read a lot. My latest conquest is Ensnared by Rita Stradling. I received my ARC from NetGalley.  This is the cover that my digital copy had, but Ms. Stradling also has another cover option on her webpage. I REALLY like this one though. It immediately caught my attention on NetGalley and when I read that Ensnared was a modern telling of Beauty and the Beast, it appealed to me more.  Since we're doing Beauty and the Beast, Jr. for our school musical,I my interest was piqued and I requested it.

Ensnared is about a woman named Alainn Murphy whose father, Connor Murphy, has been commissioned to create a robot for the rich recluse, Lorccan Garbhan. Connor's robot, Rose, has been designed to be as human as possible but it seems like there are still a few issues that need to be worked out before his deadline to Lorccan. After asking for an extension of time, and being denied, Alainn agrees to temporarily switch places with Rose (who was designed to look like Alainn) until repairs could be completed. Unfortunately, she is unsure what Rose's purpose is at the Garbhan household. 
    Although it was pretty different than what I originally expected, I thought that the concept was pretty interesting. Alainn discovers that she is the only human in the house other than Lorccan, but there are plenty of other robots. The book brought up some ethical questions about AI and human interaction with automatons.Be forewarned- there are a few "steamy" sections in this book. I thought about recommending this book to some of my students and then realized that that wouldn't be the best idea.. lol. There are a few characters/questions I would've liked to have seen developed more, but overall, it was a quick read that I enjoyed. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. 

Goodreads Challenge- 8/50

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sparks and Shadows by Kendrick von Schiller

     I won this autographed book from Goodreads a while back.(In addition to that, the author was super sweet and included a little note to me in the package.) This beautiful cover has been calling to me from my "to be read" shelf for a while. I wasn't sure what I would think of the book since I don't really read too much fantasy. I really enjoyed it.
    Sparks and Shadows is about a girl, Fura Feier, who finds herself homeless after an explosion takes the life of her family. She is taken in by Apallo and a group of people she works with at a local Renaissance festival, she finds herself in a whole new world- literally.  She finds herself questioning where she belongs and who she really is as she finds herself on the run with Kiyani, a man who is many ways her opposite, but seemingly her only "friend." She discovers that the tale of the Sect of Seven, telling of 7 lords of elemental magic who rule the world together in harmony, has been thrown out of balance when the Nyte Fyre prophecy, declaring that one will rule over all seems to be beginning.
     I liked this book a lot. I really enjoyed the world of Izandüre. As a person who doesn't read a lot of fantasy, I enjoyed the creativity of each realm and letting my imagination picture each place.  There were a few interactions between Kiyani and Fura that got a little repetitive, but I think that those recurrences helped develop some character traits of both.  There were also a few characters I would've liked to learn more about, like Rhyne, but I'm wondering if I will see more of him in book 2.  I would like to read the second book of this series when it comes out. Thanks for the giveaway.

Reading Challenge Updates:
Keyword Reading Challenge: 2/12
Mount TBR: 5/24
Goodreads Challenge: 7/50

Monday, January 30, 2017

Resolved by Lina Abujamra

Resolved: 10 Ways to Stand Strong and Live What You Believe 
     I just finished reading Resolved by Lina Abujamra.I received a copy of this book through Goodreads via Baker Publishing Group.  This book asks readers to examine their resolve in living out their faith. Abujamra challenges Christians to resolve to 10 things in order to grow closer in their relationship with Jesus.  These include: Believe Then It Looks Ridiculous, Love When It's Inconvenient, Obey When It's Not Popular, Yield When It's My Right, Speak Up When It's Easier Not To, Give When I Barely Have Enough, Be in Community When I'd Rather Be Alone, have Joy When Life is Depressing, Hope When it Hurts, and Rest in the Midst of Chaos.
     There were some things in this book that I thought were really simply said but there were also some good reminders, thinking points and nice challenges.  I thought it might be a great book for new believers, but I wonder if they might feel a little lost with some of the Bible references. 
     One thing I appreciated about this book was Abujamra's application of living her faith. As an ER doctor, she often relates some of these points to her job. It is nice to see some real world application of her points and examples. There are many times where I have learned about my faith through interactions with people in my profession, so I appreciated hearing her experiences. 

Reading Challenge Updates:
Keyword Reading Challenge: 1/12 (2 books in the first month, but 1 out of 12 months is completed)
Mount TBR: 4/24
Goodreads Challenge: 6/50

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lettermo 2017

     Month of Letters Challenge (Lettermo) 2017. Who's in?  The challenge is to:
1) Send at least one thing through postal mail for each day it runs in February.
2) Write back to everybody who writes to you.

      I love doing this every year. I'm a little behind on my penpal responses, so I'm responding to all of those first. However, one of the reason I do this challenge every year is to connect/reconnect with new/old friends.   If you would like a letter, comment here and add your address to my Postable account (only visible to me. I don't share your address with anyone).  If your name here is different than the name you've left on my address book, please let me know who to look for.
Month of Letters Participant badge 

   I have already challenged a few of my friends (and one of my students too) to participate. If you feel like you've lost touch with friends/family or if you want to devote some time to building relationships with people, consider joining. I've met some amazing people through Lettermo.